Tuesday, December 04, 2007

In Case You Wondered About Ends...

Which, occasionally, most of us do.

Here's an interesting excerpt from an address given by Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, Italy, a member of the International Theological Commission, to a Nov. 12 meeting of the bishops of England and Wales. Here he outlines the themes of a book "Age of Extremes -- The Short Twentieth Century 1914-1991," by Eric J. Hobsbawm (Penguin Books, 1994).

From the Enlightenment onward, emancipation became the great dream of hearts, of minds, of the masses of humanity. But what is emancipation? Karl Marx in his book "The Jewish Question" defines it as follows: "Emancipation means leading everything in this world back to man, to man alone." There is no "God": There is only the human being who must run his life, his destiny alone. This was the great dream of modernity: Modern ideologies, left wing and right wing, pursued this ambitious goal of emancipating man, rendering him the subject instead of the object of his history.

The "great tales" ("meta-narratives," "mega-r├ęcits") of the modernity, which ideologies are -- myths just like those they were supposed to replace -- have in common the claim to build a world in which man is the only subject and agent, both the origin and summit of all that happens. It cannot be denied that this project is fascinating and we are all its children. Which of us would want to live in a society which has not passed through the process of emancipation?

Nevertheless, this dream had satanic effects: The dream of emancipating the world and life was shattered in the unheard of violence which the age of emancipation produced, eloquent signs of which are the Shoah of the Jews and all the holocausts of our times, up to the holocaust of famine consumed day after day. Is this the fruit of adult reason? Is this the result of the great ideologies of the left and the right?

See? This ain't all politics.

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